Parenting, profundities and humour

Sock it to them! — October 17, 2019

Sock it to them!

So for those of you not in the know my house is full of hormones. A swirling maelstrom of hormones. A tornado of ‘-ones’ and ‘-ens’ rampaging through our lives for the most part unchecked blundering into feelings and harmony and those envisaged moments of blissful family life such as a quiet board game by the fire or a bracing walk in the countryside with disastrous consequences.

An awful lot of it is testosterone, two thirds of which is emergent and not totally under control or assimilated into shocked bodies. And a third of which is newly prompted into action by the other two thirds. There is a lot of posturing, chest beating, banging of heads and egos and territory marking going on.

There is also some gradually rising oestrogen and some gradually reducing oestrogen as if there is only so much available for our family and Youngest is stealing mine.

It’s a melting pot. On some days I swear the hormones are tangible like some sort of ominous, heavy Victorian smog where beasts lurk around every corner.

I have developed a maxim in order to help me navigate this swirling maelstrom. And that maxim is ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’…

And this basically entails ‘picking my battles’…

So yes it is infuriating that Eldest leaves a bowl every morning in the front room recently bereft of cereal but unable to find its way into the dishwasher. And yes on some days I take a picture of that bowl and Whatsapp it to him at school. With an ironic Smilie. But most days I don’t. For instance if Eldest has a particularly difficult Biology test in period 1 or is recovering from being pummeled physically and metaphorically in a rugby match the previous evening.

I have some non negotiables such as physical violence. I never let that slide. Disrespect to adults. Again a non negotiable. Kindness to siblings and friends. Again important, although not always achieved in the case of siblings- but I pick that battle I go into war over it. Using fingers to eat chips? Yep annoying. But not the end of the world. Not a battle to fight if Youngest is screamingly nervous about a football trial.

I have 3 teenagers/ pre teens. School has, well, several hundred. The melting pot has metamorphosed into a huge crucible on the smelting yard floor. And yet school seems to sweat the small stuff.

Maybe there is a thought process that says small stuff under control means big stuff follows. And they are afraid of anarchy. Or maybe they are all control freaks…

Here is my pet ‘small stuff’ hate. Socks. School is cracking down on socks. Socks must be black under black trousers. All mine wear black trousers including Youngest who will no longer wear a skirt after being told off in Year 7 for wearing a Junior School skirt to Senior school. Another ‘small stuff’ rant I am quite willing and able to have if you have the time? You do? Excellent.

In Junior school skirts are elasticated and flared. They make moving around the playground easy. Especially if one has a penchant for playing football. Youngest had such a skirt. It still fitted (and was within the regulation one inch of her knees). I am eco friendly. And tight. So I did not buy her a new Senior school skirt. Which are straight, have no waist adjustments and prevent ease of movement until they are a darn site higher than the regulation one inch maximum above the knee.

She got into trouble. Which if you know Youngest at all you will know throws her off for days.

I am not sure why Junior school skirts are so frowned upon. It has been suggested it is because they are easier to ‘look up’. Which in turn suggests to me a stern word about the ‘big stuff’ is required with all males in school. But I think it is probably just a ‘small stuff’ battle again. So Youngest is in trousers.

Any way back to socks. The school has a thing about ‘business attire’. I think black socks come under this. I believe this is wrong on a number of levels.

One: not all children (and lets face it we are dealing with children here) aspire to ‘go into business’. What does that even mean? Investment banking? Are we saying that to make it in the world one needs to conform? Really? In an era where employers are crying out for creativity and original, critical and higher level thinking?

Two: business attire is not what it was. My husband works in a traditional business. He now has to hot desk. People wear shorts. He, the epitome of respectability and up tightness, has started wearing chinos and an open collared shirt to work. To be honest it shocked me. But this is how the world is changing. For the better. Otherwise we would all still be wearing bowler hats.

Three: I often see teachers at the school not in ‘business attire’. For instance tie and jacket less in the heat. And before the ‘summer uniform’ rule has been invoked. Shock. If you are going to enforce a banal rule all those in that institution need to up hold that rule. Or it isn’t a rule.

Four: artists should be artists, dramatists should be dramatists, musicians should be musicians. Athletes should be sweaty. Engineers should be oily. Etc. My son is an artist and a musician and a sports player and a biologist and a historian. Only some of those work well in a suit and tie.

Leaving all that aside I can get my head around school uniform. It levels people. It prevents clothing shaming. It is cheaper if you have boys and do not have to fork out £25 per blouse and can bulk buy from Primark.

But I cannot get my head round the plain black socks. It is so not up there in the ‘battles we should be having’ stakes. Socks are an easy way to express ones personality without being too ‘out there’. Socks allow one’s hormonal teenagers a frisson of rebellion without hurting a soul. (Ha ha). Socks are fun. Socks pose no danger to anyone, not in a lab or a workshop or on a pitch. They make excellent stocking fillers. I need those.

So I turn a blind eye to my children’s sock choices. I may go so far as to say something to school if they get into trouble over their socks. I actually buy them fun socks. It’s a thing we have.

So there you have it. I think school should pick its battles. And not sweat those socks. There is enough sweat in all those socks already. And any way have you ever tried matching 3 pairs of almost identical black socks that only vary, slightly but crucially, in size once they have been through the washer? Thought not.

Adulting…it ain’t all that.. — December 7, 2018

Adulting…it ain’t all that..


‘So,’ Eldest said this morning, ‘What are you going to do on your day off?’

Well son it’s like this.

First I am going to go in to school (in the rain as it happened) to hammer out an agreement on which netball matches your sister can miss next term so she can at least step onto a football pitch.

Then I will probably tackle the weekly round of scraping dried on shit stains off 3 toilets and cleaning mine which of course still smells of roses, collect an obscene amount of almost but not quite empty shower gel and shampoo bottles, sweep finger nail cuttings off window sills into the bin (why do finger nail cuttings end up on widow sills? it flummoxes me), remove layers of toothpaste off every available surface so that you can all take great sweeping spits at the mirror later to put them all back, remove around 20 used toilet roll tubes and then try to remember which child said they needed them, presumably for some ‘fun’ Christmas homework or other, shine sinks so that your father can shave his head onto at least 2 of them during the weekend covering them with a plethora of tiny little hairs, fight back the tide of hay that seems to migrate from the guinea pig corner into every other pigging room in the house, put muddy shoes outside, hoover the stairs which get miraculously filthy even though NO ONE is supposed to wear shoes upstairs. Etc.

At some point during this process Sainsbury’s will arrive with over a 100 quid’s worth of food which will probably last until, oh I don’t know, Sunday? And I will spend a good half an hour trying to resurrect crisps that have been helpfully placed in a bag under the 5 kilos of potatoes, unpack so many bags of said crisps it is obscene and try to work out how to fit all of it in the fridge. If I am lucky it might be the fit, friendly young chap dealing with my returns. But it is more likely to be Mr Miserable.

Oh and then I will do all the admin for all the week which I no longer have any time to do including trying to work out who is where on Saturday morning and at what god forsaken hour I will have to arise, filling in Scout camp forms, updating Pitchero, and ensuring we don’t go overdrawn.

I will wade through the 6, yes 6 separate sport’s kits that were left in the washing basket (or indeed on bedroom floors, on chairs, on the floor next to the washing basket) last night and which are covered liberally in mud, sweat and quite possibly blood and which without fail are inside out.

I will take delivery of numerous parcels as Christmas arrives from Amazon. And again wonder where to put it. I will wrestle with my conscience about not sending Christmas Cards this year…due to a lack of time rather than any environmental values.

I will attempt to start 2 tax returns, determined not to leave them until January again, but I will no doubt be confounded by on line banking and call centres.

I will drive to Sainsbury’s to buy all the missing items from my on line shop and take the umpteen billion empty bottles to the bottle bank which will no doubt be full.

I will move your cereal bowl which I have absolutely every confidence you will leave on the coffee table after breakfast rather than putting it in the dishwasher…

‘So nothing fun then?’

‘Well I will eat a whole family bag of Tyrell’s Salt and Vinegar Furrows for lunch, because I can’…

Adulting, it ain’t all that…




It’s a Man’s World… — November 22, 2018

It’s a Man’s World…

So here is the thing. My daughter likes playing football. She is good at playing football. Better than good. Excellent.

So has played in Saturday clubs since she was 5. Very successfully. Her current club are brilliant and have always been very supportive of all their players.

But she is also very good at hockey, netball, running- in fact most sports that don’t involve a racquet!

This causes us issues. School wants her to play for them and she wants to as she likes to play sport with her school mates and represent her school with pride.

Unfortunately this means she has to miss football matches for her Saturday league club or has to let the school down.

Fed up of trying to juggle fixture lists I decided to bite the bullet and try to find her a Sunday football club where she could train this season and play matches, assuming they had space, with a view to signing for them properly next season.

The FA, who provide her elite training, helped me find some clubs. And told me how to phrase the email to try to get them to respond. They were all ‘boys’ clubs. Which was fine she is used to that. Girls leagues don’t seem to play on Sundays.

The FA guy said my main problem would be getting them to see Youngest in the first place. He said that once she was in front of them actually playing football she would sell herself…

Alarm bells started ringing.

I sent emails off to about 9 managers.

A sum total of 1 came back. I did not even get a ‘thanks but no thanks’ or ‘we are full try in June’; just silence.

The one who did reply was a bit cagey but suggested he assess Youngest ‘over a few weeks’ reiterating that they were a 1st division side and playing at the ‘highest level’. I knew that, that was why I had emailed his club. The intimation was that he was sceptical but at least he had replied so that was a big thumbs up to him.

We rolled up on Tuesday to training. Youngest did her thing and the manager, coaches and training were great, the boys were lovely and she had fun.

After the hour was up the manager pulled me over and said how impressed he was with how well she played and that he definitely wanted her in the team for next season and this season if a space became available, that she was welcome to training for the rest of this season and that he was convinced she would settle in extremely well.

When I told him he was the only manager who had replied to my email he was not surprised. He said most coaches would have read the word ‘girl’ and dismissed the idea out of hand. He, however, was glad he hadn’t. As he said ‘Their loss!’

Maybe all the other recipients of my email are horribly busy, I know they are all volunteers with more important things than football on their plates but even so how long does it take to write an email? Certainly not the 2 weeks I have waited.

And I wonder how many of those coaches would have emailed me straight back if they had read ‘boy on an England Talent Pathway’ rather than ‘girl on an England Talent Pathway’… probably all of them.

This situation is indicative of the slight under current of sexism in grass roots football. It is not overt (most of the time) but it is there, subtly.

Youngest doesn’t play well for a girl , she just plays well. She should not be picked out for special mention because she is as good as her team mates, she is as good as her team mates and deserves only the praise they all get unless she does something above and beyond. It gets tedious when people raise their eye brows and then say something along the lines of ‘oh when the boys start growing she’ll have to move to a girl’s team’. Have they seen Kante and Shaqiri? Height isn’t a pre requisite to playing good football.

She doesn’t get ‘pushed off the ball’ and she isn’t going to ‘lack in physicality’. She is not ‘more likely to get hurt’. And anyway why is it worse if my daughter gets hurt as opposed to the person standing next to me on the touchline’s son?

She should not ‘concentrate on girls’ sport’ as was once said to me by a (male) PE teacher. She should just focus on the sport she loves.

Her team and most of the opposition she meets don’t see her as a girl, they see her as a player. It is a shame that some of the adults surrounding football find that so hard to grasp.

In fact I think all grass roots youth football teams should just be mixed. Not ‘girls’ football or ‘boys’ football. Just football, with success based on participation, attitude and commitment and, eventually at the right age, ability; but certainly not gender.

The fact that my child does not have a penis should not mean she is dimissed out of hand or treated any differently. Talent, hardwork, commitment, coachability and desire don’t care what genitalia you possess.

Anyway she will be playing for her new side next season (and hopefully before) against most of those clubs who didn’t reply. Their loss.

Bad news…buses…idioms… — May 13, 2018

Bad news…buses…idioms…

bad news

Bad news always comes in threes. Doesn’t it? Or maybe bad news is like buses…nothing at all and then loads all at once…

It was hubby’s birthday on Wednesday. He had to work. I had a Governor’s meeting in the evening. We were going to pass like ships in the night. We decided to postpone his birthday until Saturday.

I decided to book us into a nice steak restaurant. On our own. This hasn’t happened since, well probably 2010. It was due. Youngest agreed that she felt comfortable being left for the evening with Eldest and Middlest. Result! No babysitter required.

I booked the restaurant and got the last table at a slightly earlier time than I had wanted but still beggars can’t be choosers.

My mum came round on Thursday. I had to pop to town for something. She wanted to look for summer weight trousers. We had one of those shopping expeditions when all the planets align and everything you try on fits and is in your size and colour. We spent a fortune. I replaced the 4 pairs of shoes (probably c 2004) which broke last summer. And got some new tops. And some new swimsuits. And some new sports bras. And hoped I didn’t look like mutton dressed as lamb in any of them. My mum said otherwise. But then she would. She’s my mum…

I decided to wear one of said tops and a new pair of rather gorgeous nude heels to our night out. Well it was his birthday.

Of course it was raining cats and dogs and so the overall look was going to be slightly ruined by the waterproof coat. But never mind.

Just as we were about to leave I noticed a damp patch on the landing floor. Weird I thought. I went to investigate only to be dripped on through the light fitting.

Up to the loft I went in my new top, my rather gorgeous nude heels and a head torch to discover that yes, indeed, my roof was leaking. Copiously.

Suddenly leaving the kids alone for the first time for an evening didn’t seem so appealing with the possibility of ceiling collapse or indeed a fused house. Still hubby wedged a washing up bowl, to my mind rather precariously, amongst the insulation and we set out.

We had a lovely meal. It stopped raining. The meal was unfortunately taken up in part by a contratend on the best way to deal with the leaking roof. I was hoping it was a blocked valley gutter easily solved by our lovely gutter men. Husband thought the whole roof was likely to need replacing. Glass half full versus glass half empty. Either way it was added to my to do list. But hey that was Monday’s job. There were virgin mojitos to drink and crème brulees to eat.

We got home and all ceilings, electricity and children were intact. We decided to deal with the washing up bowl in the morning and let sleeping dogs lie.

In the morning I headed up to the loft again, this time more appropriately dressed, to retrieve the partially upturned washing up bowl. Some water had indeed been collected. Quite a lot actually. Maybe I had been barking up the wrong tree and the gutter wasn’t to blame after all.

Whilst I was abluting I heard mention of ‘cakes’ and ‘House decorating competition’. Some time ago the boys had mentioned to me that they had put their names down at school for the House Cake Decorating Competition. Seriously who dreams up this shit. I had decided to cross that particular bridge when I got to it.

Apparently they had also agreed to make the cakes to be decorated. News to me. I had certainly arrived at the bridge, and it needed to be crossed.

Do not worry we will make them, they trilled. With what, I retorted. So we had to add ‘going to Sainsburys’ to the list of unappealing jobs to be done today which included revision, getting Middlest’s glasses straightened, trying on clothes and ensuring Middlest had the kit required for his imminent school outwards bounds trip, grass cutting and weeding .

Eldest then got a call from his mate and disappeared out calling back as he slammed the door that he would be home by 5.30… not sure when you will get that cake made then son.

The rest of us went to town for lunch and to go, yet again, to the opticians. I have been there so often lately I feel they should name a chair in the waiting room after me.

Wanting to kill several birds with one stone and with Middlest’s glasses duly straightened we nipped to Go Outdoors to replace some outward bounds type kit that sprouting Middlest had outgrown. During the trying on process he accidentally bashed me in the face bending my glasses… another trip to that optician’s loomed. But not today. Please not today.

Best foot forwards to Sainsburys to buy cake ingredients… just as we were about to enter the shop I noticed 7 missed calls from my husband who left town after lunch to drop Youngest at a play date and start the jobs which involved the garden.

Seven missed calls seemed quite high on the ‘urgency’ scale so I bit the bullet and called back.

Eldest had had his bike nicked from outside the cinema in town. He had locked it up along with his mate’s bike to a bike rack but some toe rags had come along with bolt cutters and half inched them. Leaving the boys stranded in town. They then spent an age talking to staff at various premises (who told them there had been 3 other bike thefts that week…might have been nice to put a sign up to that effect maybe?) and calling 999 and leaving messages for the closed Management Suite who deal with the CCTV.

Strictly speaking it is husband’s bike. Eldest out grew his bike about a year ago and it has now been passed down to Middlest. He hasn’t got a new one as he is sitting on the fence about what brand, type, colour of bike he would like next.

So now as a family we are down 2 bikes. Plus we had dealing with the police and insurance company to add to that unappealing list.

Eldest’s mate’s dad had brought them home and Eldest was prevailed upon to mow the lawn. He then got the starter pull cord tangled in the blades. His happened when Middlest and I were in the middle of baking the first cake of three. To be honest it felt like the last straw.

I didn’t really need to deal with petrol and mangled lawn mower starter cords at just that moment. Not really. Once I had the cord unwound from the mower blades the mower thankfully started again although the smell of burning oil was quite unappealing as it wafted in through the open kitchen door. Luckily I don’t need to eat that cake.

Anyway to cut a long story short it is now 8pm.

We have a crime number which we obtained after Eldest gave his account of the situation to the police who rang back whilst we were eating our roast dinner which I certainly wouldn’t have planned to make had I known about the cake baking fest.

I called the insurance company whose out of hours operatives took some details and promised me they would call back tomorrow. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The last cake is nearly cooked. The other 2 were too small for Middlest to pipe soldiers around the edge of (your guess is as good as mine) so this one is a monster and taking an age to bake.

I don’t even know where to start with the roof. I tried to have a look to see if I could see a loose tile by bouncing on the trampoline but had to stop pretty sharpish for reasons best left unsaid.

I’ll be back to the opticians at some point. Like a bad penny.

Serves me right for buying nude heels. Who was I kidding?

And…. — October 6, 2017



So today I found myself doing this.

Sitting in the car on my driveway pretending that dropping my daughter at football had taken longer than it had. Why? I hear you ask. Well I will tell you.

I was avoiding homework. Not mine you understand. My son’s. Middlest’s to be precise.

I find myself mystified at his English homework. As does he. To be honest I understand more about his Spanish homework than I do about his English and I do not speak a word of Spanish.

Facebook friends will know that yesterday Middlest prepared for his upcoming Spanish speaking test which requires him to discuss someone else and then himself. He shared what he had written and I actually understood a fair proportion of it just because I have absorbed a fair amount of Spanish via a process of osmosis (interestingly Eldest has been studying osmosis in Biology so now he gets the metaphor) during the 3 years one or other of my children (at the moment two of them but soon all three) have been learning the language.

For instance I understood the following:-

Se llama Homer y es amarillo y gordo. A Homer le gusta la hamburgessas y porjo. En su tiempo libre Homer baila con su amigo Mo, tambien Homer le gusta bebe cerveza.

Well I understood it once I remembered amarillo was ‘yellow’ (and not a destination in a song about Marie) and had googled ‘cerveza’. If you don’t have rudimentary Spanish there is a translation below. Apologies to any Spanish speaking readers- this is my son’s second full year of Spanish so I can not vouch for the accuracy of the passage but I think he gets the general gist across although his grammar may be a bit off.

And that, my friends, is where our problems really begin. Middlest has been told today of a certain number of English grammar tasks that he needs to complete on a program called ‘Doddle’.

I cannot begin to explain to you how misnamed this program is. There is literally nothing we have come across on Doddle that is in any way a doddle. Last year it was some incomprehensible biology. I didn’t do biology beyond year 9. When I was at school one could drop a science and spend one’s time doing more fun and interesting lessons like Art. This was not considered a ‘bad thing’. Dropping science is now considered a ‘bad thing’. It is no longer possible in the English school system to avoid biology and all its  difficult spellings.

I could rant on for hours about how wrong I think this is. And I speak here as a degree level chemist offered PhD placements (I didn’t take one, I was sick of being poor and smelling like a combination of a morgue and a dodgy, unemptied waste bin) who didn’t get beyond human reproduction in biology. I did Art and Music instead and had a lovely little break in my timetable when I could indulge my creativity. But, no, now biology is compulsory and I don’t even think they get to cut anything up.

Earlier Eldest wanted to run past me what a palisade cell does. It was all I could do not to bolt for the hills screaming silently. Instead I just mashed the potatoes a bit harder and tried to look vaguely intelligent. I understand what osmosis is but I don’t want a detailed account. I don’t need it for my metaphor.

Anyway where was I. Ah yes English grammar. Doddle.

So before leaving to take Youngest to football Middlest had stumbled his way through a section on apostrophes (not apostrophe’s people just not).

Now I get apostrophes. I was taught that at school. Although I have to say that I was only actually sure about it’s and its last year when I finally made myself learn the difference. Now I write a bit for public consumption it seemed important. It’s really not OK to spell its/ it’s wrong by getting its apostrophe in the wrong place is it?

But still generally I understand apostrophes and I see the relevance of teaching a new generation that it isn’t OK to tell someone on Facebook ‘your OK, chin up’ really it isn’t.

He managed the 90% pass mark but only because I taught him the rules as he went along. That’s the thing about this Doddle. It’s not very good as a teaching method as it doesn’t actually teach anything unless you get the question wrong. Faced with a 90% pass mark and not wishing to spend an hour on the uses of one punctuation mark it seemed easier to teach it to him myself rather than him having to take the test again.

Then he decided to look at Connectives and Conjunctions.

Oh my actual god.

I was lost on the first page. The difference between them anyone? No anyone? I mean it shout if you know. I didn’t and I still don’t.

The test then went on to ask about some other sorts of connectives/ conjunctions which involved words like sub-ordinate and co-ordinate and adverbial and something else-ial and blah blah blah-ial and the punctuation associated with each.

Suffice to say I have not in all my 47 years absorbed any such information by osmosis.

The test did not enlighten us much. He did not achieve the pass mark. And if he sat it again I am not sure he would next time. I certainly wouldn’t have passed it. I got that same glazed over feeling I got when I was faced with that palisade cell earlier.

Also I am not sure that there is a point in this knowledge. I write a lot and I may not be the best writer in the world (for I am overly fond of ellipses (and indeed subordinate clauses)) but I can certainly use at least three connectives/ conjunctions, whether adverbial or of time and place, in a sentence without being able to name them.

I believe I just have.

It is possible that there are grammar nerds and English teachers out there who gleefully spend their spare time underlining the different sorts of connectives/ conjunctions in their favourite work of literature with different coloured Sharpies. But I doubt it. The grammar nerds would no doubt prefer to trawl Facebook calling out abusers of the apostrophe. And those English teachers would probably prefer to spend their allotted curriculum time discussing those works of literature with their students. Which is most likely why this drivel has been set as homework.

So cheers English department. I told Middlest to leave his score as it was. And to explain to anyone who has a problem with that that he still does not understand it. But that he can use connectives/ conjunctions in his own writing. Quite adequately.

Like Middlest said, “It’s just the word ‘and’ at the end of the day!”

Spanish translation

His name is Homer and he’s yellow and fat. Homer likes hamburgers and pork. In his spare time Homer dances with his friend Mo, Homer also likes to drink beer.



Sunbed Wars… — July 31, 2017

Sunbed Wars…


Time for another holiday missive. I cannot quite believe it has been a year since my last holiday blogs from Portugal. Such gems as Wind Up and Why are there no Aspirin in the Jungle? Please do look them up. I have limited technology here in sunny (and windy) Fuerteventura and so I struggle to provide links. Oo actually I think I may have mastered it. Let’s hope so…

For those of you that remember the latter blog it dealt with the fact that Middlest and Youngest had developed raging ear infections from over pool use and the lengths we needed to go to sort that out. Well by way of background that happened again in October in this very hotel and we spent another day of our precious holiday at doctors and pharmacists.

And so I bought them earplugs and gromit bands to wear on this holiday. Needless to say that hasn’t gone down too well. It is somewhat of a battle to get them to wear them. I actually think they look kind of cool. I would post a picture but all photographic evidence is banned.

I am a lonely voice in favour of such a get up, even husband suggested “We should play it by ear”. Not only is that a dreadful pun but I am also not sure how that would work. Until “we had played it by ear” enough for an ear infection, or possibly two, to develop? What and then wear the gromit bands? After the fact. I pointed out that if that did occur he would be getting the taxi to the pharmacy in the next town and trying to get by in rudimentary Spanish. That was enough to get him to back down. My husband is legendary for his lack of linguistic ability. I once came back from a loo trip when we were in Gran Canaria and discovered him trying to order two pineapple juices by miming a pineapple. It has gone down in Harrison folk law. I intervened. Dos zumo du pina por favor? The look of relief on the poor waitresses face was a sight to behold. I am sure it has gone down in waitress folk law too…..

I also reminded the off spring of the night of agony they both suffered. Middlest on the sofa crying. The subsequent pool ban for the rest of the holiday. The increased pain on the return flight. Apparently all this is like labour pain. Forgotten conveniently by the next time. That has cost me quite dearly. I didn’t want it to cost them. Like many many things I do that appear mean and heartless (apparently) I am doing it for their own good.

So they are wearing them. I put my foot down. And as everyone knows I am the boss. I saw a bunch of pre pubescent Germans pouring all inclusive Fanta on their heads and diving straight into the pool yesterday. I rest my case….

Anyway this wasn’t supposed to be a blog about ear infections but as always I have got massively sidetracked.

No this is a blog about sun beds.

We arrived at midnight on Saturday evening after a traumatic trip which saw us nearly miss the flight due to the M25. Needless to say we didn’t fancy getting up too early on our first day. At about 7.30 then we wandered blearily down to breakfast. Early is a relative term with my kids.

My first inkling that something may be up was when I went onto the balcony to take in the view. The view consisted of a lot of middle aged men, many in Lycra  (can I go nowhere without mamils?) reserving platoons of sun beds. I shrugged it off. In October here we had wandered down after a leisurely breakfast (by 8.30) and still been able to sit in the shade, a must for my family two of whom are very pale skinned. One of those is a fully grown man who still believes he will get a tan, despite 43 years of evidence to the contrary. The other is Middlest who spends his holidays getting more and more freckly in an endearing but ultimately futile way tan wise.

Anyway after this particular leisurely breakfast (probably the best in our All Inclusive experiences with proper sausages and bacon that is so well cooked it cracks, the only way to eat bacon in my opinion. I do wish the continent could get its collective head around the need for cold milk with tea though, not hot milk or, worse, cream and provide tea pots and proper sized mugs. That might be just me of course) husband wandered down and could only find sunbeds in full sun and then they were sandwiched between the bins and the showers.

Nevermind we carried on undaunted. After lunch I happened to be passing a family with a small child vacating their beds under the shade and I pounced securing the beds with everything I was carrying; sun hat, one towel & my sun glasses. I toyed with removing my bikini top to secure the fourth bed such was my desperation for shade, sweat having formed on the back of my knees, but thought better of it. The resort is partly naturist but it isn’t really my style…I ran back to husband and we embarked on a change over procedure.

Despite this retreat to the shade for the latter part of the afternoon Middlest still got mild sun stroke as we were to find out at 11.30 pm when Eldest pounded on the door to advise that Middlest was vomiting copiously into, luckily, the toilet.

I resolved to find shady sun beds the next morning come what may.

Anyway at 07:00 hours I pulled on shorts and a tee shirt and joined the mamils reserving sun beds. I found five in the shade further from the activity pool than everyone wanted but not bad in my opinion.

I got chatting to an English man who was arranging his towels on the run of beds next to ours. My family find it odd that I will strike up a conversation with such people. I was about to spend the day lying approximately four inches from at least one member of his party. Getting on friendly terms seemed fair enough.

Whilst he had a fag and I tried not to stare at his sleeve tattoos we discussed the state of affairs which had apparently got worse in this, his second week of holiday. He had been unable to acquire beds any nearer to the activity pool and this got us to wondering what god awful time those in the prime spots had actually arisen at.

There is a rumour circulating that people are setting out towels the night before. They must be German surely? It is a risky strategy as the wind here is truly phenomenal. It is not our first holiday involving wind, as detailed in the aforementioned post Wind Up. In fact I am starting to wonder if my husband is actually seeking out windy locations, this being our third in a row. That Rugby World Cup hoody is back in action. It looks a bit out of date now but it is still very serviceable.

With regard to sun bed reserving I hold the shop partially responsible as they sell beach towel pegs to fasten your beach towel to your sun bed. I have seen a number of towels flapping kite like from their pegged mooring,  Those beach towels carry a €15 deposit, not sure I would risk it. I like JJ the overweight Bulgarian entertainment team member as much as the next woman but not enough to risk that kind of wonga. I will forsake laughing at people doing spin in the water to ensure I don’t lose €75.

My new friend was off on a couple of day trips in the forthcoming week and he was looking forward to the lie in. I had to agree. Of course there are signs up forbidding the reserving of sun beds, the management reserving the right to remove unattended articles. Of course these signs are totally ignored. And some of the more moral amongst my holidaying compatriots actually sit on the beds from seven am thus getting around this issue. In any event can you imagine the mountain of beach towels and lilos (a particularly risky sunbed saving article here in the force nine gale especially the ones shaped like lobsters whose claws seem to catch the wind very easily) and sun hats and random bags that would be created if the management did carry out their threat? Aqua spin would be highly likely to be called off whilst they sorted all that out annoying a huge amount of slightly over weight women. I am sure the management have thought better of it.

I wouldn’t mind so much except that a huge amount of these reserved sun beds do not get occupied until I am going in for lunch, maybe they should start a rota system?

In any event I have it better than my new found sun bed chum whose party consists of his 20 year old lad and his girlfriend (who was indeed the member I spent most of the day lying four inches from which was quite annoying as she was, well, 20 and therefore didn’t paint me in a particularly favourable light) his wife and sister in law  (overweight, unfortunate sun burn lines, tattoos that were possibly once attractive why couldn’t I have ended up next to her? ) and his 16 year old daughter. He doesn’t get a sunbed for her because she might not turn up all day, and he is British and so has a sense of decency about these things.

The reason I have it better is because he was off to await the forming of the a la carte dining queue which, he informed me, he had been unsuccessful in on a previous three occasions. He had a new strategy planned and was hopeful. I shall look out for him in the all you can eat buffet later. That is where we will be eating every night.

I imagine sun bed man (who of course I did not exchange anymore words with once our families had arrived, for that would be weird) would probably also choose the buffet too. During our chat he agreed with me that the food is great.

Especially the bacon.

Off to set my alarm. Good night.




Go Compare… — August 25, 2016

Go Compare…


So today I got round to a bit of household admin…. I do all the admin…. It is part of my job…. Which I don’t actually have…. As I am variously classed as housewife/ homemaker/ full time mother/ waste of space…. That last one isn’t on many forms. But the implication is there.

Anyhoo. I do the admin.

During the school holidays the admin tends to pile up. Because I find it hard to concentrate enough to do it with a house full of kids wanting me to: mend and then blow up punctured paddling pools; admire their zip wire constructions which stretch precariously from bedroom window to trampoline and down which teddies pinned by ears to coat hangers career less than gracefully; rescue indoor remote control helicopters from the tops of trees in next door’s garden. More or less all at the same time. On an average day.

In any event the pile had got unwieldy. And was threatening to topple over. And merge with the pile of school/ child extra curricular type admin stuff. I need two piles. To avoid such toppling. School/ child extra curricular type admin is not a priority currently. Them not being at school or doing anything much of an extra curricular nature except watching endless you tube videos involving vloggers or Pokemon Go, avoiding anything relating to musical instruments and football. There is always bloody football. That game just never quits. Ever. I digress. So this other admin pile had also got quite big. Therefore I decided I needed to begin to attack my home admin pile. I had a quick shifty. The pile contained:-

Details of my new mobile phone insurance which bizarrely had been sent to my old address. That needed changing.

A new address card from friends. Again sent to my old address. I needed to let them know we had moved. I could have sworn I wrote our new address in their Christmas card but clearly the message had not got through. I guess this is how people fall out of touch. If the lovely people who bought our old house had not sent our friends’ change of address card on to us our Christmas cards this year would just have ended up in a recycling factory. Sad.

Middlest’s child trust fund statement. This sounds like we are much posher than we are…we aren’t.

A request to book in my annual boiler service. Again. Blimey that came round quick.

A large note to myself saying BOOK MIDDLESTS BIRTHDAY PARTY. In block capitals. With no apostrophe I noticed. Someone had also highlighted the note with pink highlighter. I think I can guess who. Probably not a grammar aficionado.

A letter telling me of a change in our bank account’s terms and conditions. I usually bin these letters as they just tell me how much more I will get charged if I go overdrawn. But I had seen a reference to ‘Travel Insurance’ on the front page and so needed to investigate. Please see below.

The claim forms from my Bank account’s travel insurance company which needed filling in following our recent medical escapades in Portugal. (See Why are there no Aspirin in the Jungle? for more information should you feel the need.)

An automatic renewal letter for the breakdown cover on my oven. Decisions decisions.   Do I allow renewal and then ensure my oven never breaks down again or cancel and ensure my oven breaks down a day later….always a lose lose situation.

A renewal letter from my insurer for my home insurance.

I decided to tackle the last item first. I thought it would be a quick ‘win’. Cursory glance to ensure T&Cs still in order. File. Jobs a goodun.

I looked at the premiums for the coming year. They looked a little, well, larger than I was currently paying, but I wasn’t sure. In our house move last year many, many things changed, got more expensive, got more complicated and such like.  I wasn’t sure how much we were actually paying. So I checked it to last year’s letter and found out my premiums had gone up by over 20%. Ouch.

Now I am not one of those perpetual comparers. I do not regularly check my energy providers. Switch insurers at the merest whim. I am not the proud owner of numerous meerkats wearing dubious outfits. I am loyal. Which I hoped counted for something.

Clearly not as this seemed to me to be taking the proverbial piss. I had claimed on my home insurance during the year (we broke some doors- well the wind did please see The View for more info). I thought maybe this was skewing the premiums. But, no, I saw that my No Claims Discount had gone up 5% making the price hike even more ridiculous.

My mother arrived. I hadn’t called her for insurance advice. She didn’t arrive in lycra tights with a cape ‘Insurance Woman’…She was coming around anyway. But even without the benefit of superhero powers she agreed the price hike seemed ridiculous.

There was nothing for it. I was going to have to enter a price comparison web site. I have tried to use such places before. To change energy suppliers. I got so bogged down in kilo watt hours and such like that I gave up trying. It had seemed that I needed to refresh my Maths A level before attempting again. I was hoping an insurance site might need less algebra skills.

In the event, although it took a fair while, most of the questions could be answered from my handy, if expensive, renewal letter. And the others I did my best with. I pressed the button. Those few seconds whilst the site was ‘getting quotes’ felt a bit like Christmas morning as a kid when one has awoken too early and is not able to immediately investigate the bulging stocking at the end of the bed. Well maybe I exaggerate a little. But my internet is very slow (something else on the admin pile) and so it did seem that time stretched out a little.

Well when those quotes came up I was staggered with how much less some of them were.

The first thing I did was scroll down to a name I recognised. Call me cautious but I struggle to buy stuff from firms I have never heard of. Plus a lot of them had rather dodgy looking ratings. It is all well and good paying tuppence ha’penny for an insurance policy but if the claims process is going to let you down it seems rather pointless.

Even discounting the more discounted quotes based on my gut feel and innate warning system of ‘if it seems to good to be true it probably is’ I could get my insurance nearly £450 cheaper elsewhere.

I still was not convinced and went through to the well known department store’s actual site and made sure the quote was like for actual like. OK I needed to amend the voluntary excess down a bit which put the price up a bit. Still a £425 saving.

I rang them. That warning bell was still going off in my head. It took three minutes to get through the menu system and to listen to all the dire warnings about lieing and to their privacy policy which basically consists of one having no privacy unless one stipulates that one wants privacy.

I got a lovely lady. In the UK. Always a bonus. I checked my concerns. Had they understood my claims history? Where my specified items showing? Etc. She confirmed all was in order and urged me to complete the process on line as it would be more expensive to do it through her. Good advice too.

My mind was almost made up. My innate sense of loyalty kicked in. I rang my current insurer to see if they could do anything and anyway I would need to tell them I wished to cancel. I got through their menu system in record time as I had clicked ‘I wish to cancel my insurance’ early on in the process. That seemed to help.

I explained that their insurance was too expensive. The man ‘ran through the renewal terms’ and came back with an offer £200 lower than the original quote. I was flabbergasted. In fact now I was even more cross. I asked him why he was suddenly able to provide me with insurance for £200 less a year than previously quoted.

He spouted some guff about the quote being computer generated and then I let him talk on by saying nothing and his ‘excuses’ got lamer and lamer. In summary what he meant was:

If you are a sucker who does not challenge his insurance quote you will get shafted.

I ‘politely’ declined his offer. Added accidental damage to my new quote and still proceeded to save our family £400 a year less the cost a few phone calls and my time, which as we know costs nothing.

The price of loyalty, it seems, is extremely high.




Silly Season — July 3, 2016

Silly Season

taj mahal.jpg

It is nearly the end of term. All my children have done end of year assessments. We have concerts and sports days left. Cricket matches and charities afternoons. Swimming galas and house rounders. The last few weeks are busy.

As such I was hoping for a let off homework wise.

Unfortunately this is homework ‘silly season’.

In the last few weeks of term Eldest has been doing ‘mini projects’. One in science, one in RE and one in Geography. I am sure the teachers love them. I imagine them on Facebook or taking down classroom displays whilst their charges get on with ‘independent’ work.

To be fair Eldest managed his Geography project quite well alone and I had little involvement. Except to correct some fundamental errors in his map reading of our local area.

The science project has involved me driving him to a mates’s house so they could recreate the solar system out of polystyrene and represent the phases of the moon with Oreo cookies. I think the mate’s dad did get involved. Eldest mentioned a man cave. And the resulting model does imply that said dad has a lot of hardware type stuff ‘lying around’. Good job they did it there. We don’t have a man cave. Or lots of bits of stuff hanging around. Thanks mate’s dad…. All Eldest needs to do now is get said stuff to school tomorrow along with his cello and games kit. Luckily my friend is driving…

The threatened RE project has yet to materialise. Eldest did mention making a model of Exeter cathedral, which we recently visited. I put my fingers in my ears and sang ‘la la la la la’. Repeatedly. And am hoping it has all just ‘gone away’. If not we will stick a bit of coloured cellophane on a shoe box and call it quits…. It could be worse it could be making the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks…

In music they are filling in the last few lessons by learning to play a contemporary song in small groups. Eldest is his group’s pianist. I and the rest of my family are slowly going mad being subjected to the opening bars of ‘Seven Years’ over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. He does not seem to be able to get beyond those opening bars. I have been roped in to help. Which seems to consist mainly of me shouting ‘B flat major chord’ at him a lot, whilst washing up. I used to like the song. Now? Not so much. ‘Once I was 46 years old, Eldest said to me, got to learn the song, now I hate it all so much’. Or something like that…

Middlest’s maths teacher decided that setting ‘making chocolate brownies’ for homework was a ‘good idea’. Some sort of guff about ratios. How spurious? They are ‘due in’ on Wednesday. Of course Middlest has also been selected for cricket matches on both Monday and Tuesday evenings and also has other commitments on those nights. So guess what we were doing at 7pm today?

I am sure the maths teacher loves ‘marking’ this homework. And feels he is being cool and hip. What he is really being is a right royal pain in the arse. I like to cook with my kids. But I would like to choose the time. And the recipe. If it is all the same to you Mr Maths teacher.

And for the avoidance of doubt I don’t want to make chocolate brownies at 7pm on a Sunday evening.


I hope all that ‘marking’ makes him sick.


Central Bleating — April 3, 2016

Central Bleating

image.jpegSo today we got home from a lovely week away in Northumberland. Lots of Roman walls and plumbing. Lots of medieval walls and plumbing. A postern gate or two.  Lots of Scrabble. My kind of holiday.

The journey home was only remarkable for being unremarkable. That seven hour marathon to get there was not repeated and we arrived back home in good time.

I don’t know about you but whenever I arrive home I am always pleased to see it still standing. Not burnt to the ground. Or broken into. It is irrational, I know. Half the village would have texted me to let me know if such tragedies had befallen my abode during our time away.  Hell they may have even called. But still it’s a relief none the less.

This was especially pertinent this time as storm Katie had hit whilst we had been away. This is a new thing here in the UK. Naming storms. We seem to have hurricane envy. Anyway Katie had dislodged the BBQ cover, moved the table tennis table and inexplicably opened the locked shed doors. But otherwise she had been kind. Ta duck.

So anyway initial inspection over I marched straight upstairs to turn on the central heating and hot water. Although the day was not that cold a week of vacancy and no heat had turned the house into a fridge, it was literally warmer outside. The kids agreed and so whilst the house warmed up they went on the trampoline.

I began the task of unpacking the boot. Quite a long winded process as we seemed to have taken most of the house on holiday and returned with more Easter eggs then was healthy.

Just as husband was off to the supermarket to rustle up some tea I noticed the distinct lack of ‘heatingupness’. The day being so warm I asked him to check the thermostat to ensure the heating would indeed kick in. It showed 11.5 degrees. So, yes, the radiators should have been warm. And the hot water tank well hot. And can I just add at this juncture that my hot water tank does not have an immersion heater and non of my showers are electric. Damn and blast. I was starting to get…a….bad….feeling…

I went into the garage. Even before I had climbed over the bikes and trailer I could see a flashing red light on my boiler. Not, I thought, a good sign. I still needed to make that perilous journey as my eyes were unable to determine the meaning of the flashing red light from any distance. Using the handy warning light key on the side of my boiler I determined that I either had low pressure (of what was not specified Gas? Water? Blood?) or a defunct pump. Or possibly both.

Neither sounded great. Of course knowing what the fault(s) maybe was(were) was in no way any help to me as no where on the boiler did it explain what to do to rectify said fault(s). Nor did the installation manual- that I subsequently located in the ‘file of useful stuff’ the previous owners of the house had left for our delectation- shed any light. In fact the manual was written in a foreign language. Corgi engineer speak I believe.

Luckily I pay a small fortune to a national gas company for boiler insurance. It took me a while to locate their phone number because my own over efficient filing system meant I failed to locate the paperwork which I had possibly misfiled after ‘constantly filling up toilet-gate’ and my computer, also redundant and unloved for a week, was refusing to ‘warm up’…there’s a theme here…

Out of interest despite two call outs from the plumbing sub contractor of the aforementioned national gas company the toilet will still constantly fill up after every flush unless one depresses both the ‘poo’ and ‘wee’ buttons of the flush mechanism simultaneously. This is a fact I find myself having to remind every other occupant of my house of. Constantly. It is only I who has the knack of reaching into the freezing cold water of the cistern to rectify the issue. Sigh.

Anyhow I called them up. Eventually. Unfortunately because I have no one with medical conditions, have two log burners and a kettle I am not considered an emergency. Tomorrow was the best they could offer. 8 til 1 or 2 til 6. Um let me think as early as damn possible please.

I set to laying out my log burners. It was not a job I expected to have to do. Piles of laundry yes. But not setting two fires. Accordingly there were no logs in the house. It is April. I had gone away thinking it unlikely I would use them again this year. Doh.

Anyway I got them going. I have never lit both together before. On going outside to collect the logs I did consider leaving the doors open to let some warm air in… I spent the afternoon oscillating between grates. The front room burner is easier to tend than the family room burner. I discovered.

By the kids’ bedtime these two rooms were warm. No where else was. I dangled fairly flammable PJs off the mantles. All we needed was a tin bath to complete the Victorian Fireside look. However we had to make do with the kitchen sink and used the kettle to get some warm water for a lick and a promise. I introduced them to the joys of hot water bottles. I only have one so they have had to time share it. I will be sneaking into Eldest’s room later to purloin it back. That smell of hot wet rubber, it takes me back it does…

All in all, excepting the cold loo seat which Middlest was very shocked about, they have found it quite fun. Middlest has a new found appreciation for the Tudors. Apparently.

I, on the other hand, have not. Found it fun. And will be glad to have my pressure sorted tomorrow and get a warm shower. In the meantime I will chuck another log on the fire and see how many of those Easter eggs I can eat without the kids noticing.

Oh and on my way to my cold bed later I must just stop by that cistern. Cheers hubby.



I accuse Anglian Water with the lead piping … — March 24, 2016

I accuse Anglian Water with the lead piping …


So here is a thing.

A couple of weeks ago my new neighbours popped round to tell me that a recent water survey had shown that they had dangerous levels of lead in their water.

I am not sure what prompted them to get the water surveyed. But anyhow they had. And Anglian Water had done some scientific testing and the upshot was they were banned from drinking their tap water until the road could be dug up.

New neighbour explained that Anglian Water thought the problem might be the pipe between the main main and the house.

In a neighbourly way she thought I ought to know the lie of the land so to speak. Lay of the pipe? Obviously the road being dug up was one issue but there was also the fact that Anglian Water thought it likely my house would also be affected.

I think I may have mentioned the road being dug up in my blog Fares Please . Well I don’t think I did I know I did but, hey, links get me visits. So sue me I am a shameless reader numbers whore. Secretly all bloggers are. Numbers do matter. Sorry guys.

Here is another thing. Pipes running up to your boundary are the responsibility of the Water company (yea). Pipes on your property are not. They remain your responsibility.

We have all had those letters in the post warning us of the dire consequences of not taking up one’s Water company’s insurance for pipes on our property. We have all binned such letters. Or if super security aware, shredded them. I am one of those people. My laissez faire attitude to pipe ownership was perhaps coming back to bite me. Poison me.

Anyway our road was dug up. Neighbour’s pipe was lead. Anglian Water replaced it up to their boundary. And not an inch beyond. However they did say it looked unlikely that there was lead on their property. I am pleased for them.

Anyway in the manner of Pandora’s Box I now had to do something. I had been happily imbibing my tap water since last May with not a thought to its possible heavy metal content. Of course now there was the distinct possibility I was absorbing the old Pb I became paranoid. Not paranoid enough to switch to bottled water (too expensive and environmentally damaging) but paranoid enough to run my tap for two minutes each time I wanted a drink. I couldn’t put the thought back in the box.

I should probably add at this point that I have historically been a tap water evangelist. I have never seen the need to spend money on bottled water and pollute our local rivers with empty plastic bottles. I have always firmly believed in the benefits of tap water. And often told others so. I still believe this. Sort of. I will when all possibility of lead has left the arena anyway.

Of course I googled the effects of lead poisoning and wished I hadn’t. No really, I really wish I hadn’t.

So I called Anglian Water who, considering the circumstances, were happy to send out a scientist to test my water. And its level of toxins. I was expecting lab coats. And possibly a bespectacled gentleman.

I got a man in a van with steel toe capped boots and what looked suspiciously like four washed out coke bottles. Surely enough residual toxins in there to get my water onto the banned substance list. Anyhow he took his very scientific samples. Without labelling a single one. And nipped off to his van for a fag before drawing his last one- a 30 minute standing test.

He promised the results in writing within 10 days. That seemed an awfully long time to a person possibly building up ruinous levels of lead in their system. But then I reflected that since I had been gaily doing that for around 10 months it possibly didn’t make much difference.

In the manner of blood test results I expected a phone call should things be particularly hairy (sorry heavy). I hadn’t heard anything for 6 days and was starting to relax. I had stopped running the tap for two minutes every time I wanted a cuppa anyway.

I was just mentioning to my mother that I thought we were in for a clean bill of health when the man from Anglian Water called up. Irony or what… Leadery?

Suffice to say the level of lead in the sample taken from the street was over the safe amount of 10 mg per litre. Not much over but still over. The samples taken from my kitchen tap were lower but still showed the presence of lead. So there are lead pipes somewhere. My levels were not so bad that I was banned from drinking my water but he suggested going back to running it for two minutes before drinking to minimise the lead content in each refreshing glass full.

His suggested course of action was to dig up my road again and have a look at the pipe leading up to my boundary. If that proved to be made from lead they would replace it free of charge. Next another steel toe capped mad in a van would roll up and repeat the sampling. This time they would do a slightly more scientific test (in my view not difficult) for the ‘fag break’ one and take many more smaller samples which would help pinpoint where the lead piping remained within my property if indeed it did at all.

Quite why they didn’t do this before is unclear to me.

I asked him was it likely that the whole road (which predates the 1970s when lead piping became illegal) would be in the same predicament? He thought it likely.

That begged my next question. Why didn’t they just survey the whole street in a systematic way. Thus presumably saving time and money on hole diggers, pipe replacers and hole filler in-ers, temporary traffic lights and road closures.

His response? “That would be ideal but we have to target our resources”.

Clearly a stock response read off a card ‘to be used with difficult customers’. (I had one of those cards when I worked in a bank and had to sell loan insurance. ‘Overcoming Customer Objections’, I think it was called. If only the banks had not overcome such objections they would be a lot better off now. But hey ho that is a whole other issue and I appear to be getting side-tracked.)

His only suggestion was that I mention it to my neighbours directly. Of course I will. But a bit of proactivity on their part might have been nice. No not nice. Responsible.

It is not clear to me why shareholders in Anglian Water would come above public health but they clearly do.

Neighbour and I may do a leaflet drop. That will screw them right royally.

Serve them right.



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